President Bush yesterday urged the Senate to move swiftly after he announces his nominee to fill the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, citing past votes that occurred an average of 57 days after a presidential nomination.
The president said the last two nominations to the high court — both by former President Bill Clinton — offer “examples of fair treatment and a reasonable timetable for Senate action.”
He cited the Senate confirmation of Mr. Clinton’s nominee — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — just 42 days after her name was submitted in 1993, and when Mr. Clinton in 1994 tapped Justice Stephen G. Breyer for the bench. He won Senate approval 73 days later.
“These examples show that the thorough consideration of a nominee does not require months of delay,” the president said.
There are 79 days until the Supreme Court reconvenes on the first Monday of October, and Mr. Bush said he plans to “make my nomination in a timely manner so the nominee can be confirmed before the start of the court’s new term in October.”
Assuming that a candidate could be confirmed within the construct presented by the president, a nomination would be needed by the end of the July.
Mr. Bush vowed to present an acceptable candidate, but that feat was made more difficult when Justice O’Connor, a moderate swing vote, and not conservative Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, retired.
“I will be guided by clear principles as I make my decision. My nominee will be a fair-minded individual who represents the mainstream of American law and American values. The nominee will meet the highest standards of intellect, character and ability, and will pledge to faithfully interpret the Constitution and laws of our country,” Mr. Bush said.
The president also reiterated his desire that the Senate confirmation process “rises above partisanship.” He met last week with top Democratic and Republican lawmakers from the Senate, and administration officials have talked with more than 60 members of the Senate.
“Members of the Senate are receiving a full opportunity to provide their opinions and recommendations, and I appreciate their advice,” Mr. Bush said. “When I met with Senate leaders, we discussed our shared goal of making sure that the confirmation process is dignified. The nominee deserves fair treatment, a fair hearing and a fair vote.”
The list of potential candidates has grown dramatically since Justice O’Connor announced her retirement on July 1. Mentioned most often when Chief Justice Rehnquist was expected to step down were Samuel Alito, Emilio Garza, J. Michael Luttig, John Roberts Jr., Michael McConnell and J. Harvie Wilkinson III, all federal appeals court judges.
But first lady Laura Bush expanded the pool of names last week when she said, “I would really like for him to name another woman.”
The president this month succeeded in getting two women, Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Owen, on the federal bench, but only after a fierce battle in the Senate.
Mentioned most often now are federal Judges Edith Hollan Jones and Edith Brown Clement, although new names have emerged, including Alice M. Batchelder of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati; Deborah Cook, a former Ohio Supreme Court judge whom the president appointed to the 6th Circuit; Deanell Reece Tacha of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver; Karen Williams from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, and Sonia Sotomayor of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, offered by Senate Democrats.